A recent Twin Cities high school football standout who committed to the Gophers but later changed his mind died in his St. Paul home Monday. Jovanny “Jojo” Garcia was 19 years old.
“Sadly, it appears” that Garcia committed suicide, police spokesman Steve Linders said in an e-mail to the Star Tribune.
Garcia was a star defensive tackle, first at Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul, then at East Ridge in Woodbury. However, East Ridge had to forfeit all of its 2013 and 2014 victories because Garcia was declared ineligible following a residency dispute.
“It affected him. I felt bad he had to go through that,” said John Griffin, assistant football coach at East Ridge High School.
Griffin said Garcia came from a “tough situation” at home and at one point lived in his car during high school.
“He needed football,” he said. “He needed that concept of team and family. I just worried that he would either end up in jail or dead one day.”
Garcia, who Griffin described as having a great smile and infectious personality, transferred to Simley High School in Inver Grove Heights but didn’t play football there.
Garcia committed to play for the University of Minnesota, but changed his mind when head coach Jerry Kill left in 2015. He then revealed his intention to play for Iowa Western, a junior college in Council Bluffs. That never materialized.
“The kid had unbelievable ability,” Griffin said. “It’s unfortunate.”
The Ramsey County medical examiner’s office said it’s awaiting toxicology test results before ruling on a cause and manner of death.